What makes a brainstorming session a strategic brainstorming session? Some might say, “Aren’t all brainstorming sessions essentially strategic?” Well yes and no. It might surprise many that most brainstorming sessions are an exercise in establishing creative concepts in order to facilitate the tactics set out by the strategy. That in itself is not wrong. However in order to reach the level of strategic thinking required for the next big idea it takes a lot more focus and guidance from the session leader.

Strategic brainstorming strives to develop creative concepts that go well beyond the obvious. It doesn’t speak to the how of a brand or business nor does it dwell on tactics. Strategic brainstorming takes more discipline in order to expose the bigger picture. Big-picture thinking is all about strategy and the overarching communications that encompass the call-to-actions and the tactics. How do you arrive at big picture thinking and how do you know when you get there?

All brainstorming sessions have a basic premise of establishing parameters to develop a creative concept that speaks to a desired message. Call-to-actions and creative establishing the USP of a brand or business fall into that range.

Often, many creative outcomes, whether it’s a TV ad, billboard, digital or web ad, speak to features – beautifully so. There isn’t anything more beautiful than an eloquent creative that is single focused and speaks to the brand or business core premise.

However, move the lens a few degrees north of that premise and you fall into the strategic brainstorming sphere.

Strategic brainstorming speaks to the emotive quality that umbrellas the brand or business USP and focuses on the call-to-action in a benefit-driven statement. It needs to go beyond the low-hanging fruit to determine the overarching statement or creative premise.

Creative professionals who have worked within the strategic brainstorming sphere know what I am talking about. It’s not so easy, right? It’s actually quite challenging – that’s what makes it exciting!

Strategic brainstorming takes any mandate away from colloquialisms and speaks to consumers by tugging at their hearts while resonating with their rationale side.

How do you determine if your creative brainstorming sessions have resulted in strategic creative thinking? Here are some pointers:

Do your homework: Don’t just read the documentation from the client. You need to conduct your own investigation in order to live and breathe the brand or business. This allows you to develop your own thinking about the industry, come to your own conclusions and possibly find that golden nugget idea that would otherwise stay buried.

Take the time: Allow for the information digestion. It’s important to not only read the material, but for your mind to digest the information so that it becomes part of you. Only then can you think about the brand or business as your own. This will allow you to place yourself in the intended audience’s shoes and start thinking in terms of the values that are important for the brand or business to communicate.

Originality is a must: Take the obvious and make it sing. There’s nothing better than convincing people to connect with a brand or business they already know. They are just waiting for that little push. That’s what obvious is all about. But obvious still has to be original. Concepts that stem from the proverbial low-hanging fruit and are easy to pick may lack the depth of messaging or the singularity necessary. Also, be careful not to confuse category benefits with brand benefits. These aren’t owned by any brand or business.

Dive deep: There’s a difference between snorkeling and deep sea diving. Snorkeling allows you to see many beautiful colours of fish and vegetation from the top looking down. It still provides impact but you are only looking at it near the surface. Whereas deep sea diving allows you to immerse yourself among all the beauty that lies beneath, allowing you to develop a concept that is truly full of life.

What are some of the techniques you have used for strategic brainstorming?